The Contemporary Woman in 1703 Essay

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The Contemporary Woman in 1703

In the poem "To the Ladies," Lady Mary Chudleigh demonstrates affinity between wife and servant (1) through the use of a controlling metaphor. She describes a wife’s role by depicting it through ideas that are strongly associated with slavery. Chudleigh’s use of deigning diction, her description of the wife’s submissive actions, and her negative attitude towards the perceived future of a woman who gets married show the similarity among wife and servant (1). Chudleigh presents this poem as a warning to women who are not yet married, and as an offering of regret to those who are. Chudleigh’s use of deigning diction is key to understanding her view on the matter of marriage. She emphasizes the word …show more content…

To use "obey" again brings us back to the beginning of the poem. This reflection reminds us of the original meaning of "obey," the offering of vows, the beginning of marriage. It is very important to remind us that we are talking about a wife’s servitude and not a slave’s. Without this reminder that Chudleigh is talking about speaking about a wife, the message she is trying to convey is weakened because we expect this type of servitude from a slave in 1703. You can slip back and forth between wife and slave because both are treated as possessions and not as people. Chudleigh invites us to see some interaction between husband and wife. She articulates how submissive a wife can be by saying that a wife is "governed by a nod" (15). This demonstrates the simplistic, servant like nature a wife will exhibit to her husband and his expectations of her submissiveness towards him. The husband expects his wife to obey him by a nod of his head. This pomposity a husband displays in the way he acknowledges his wife is recognized in other parts of the poem when he is referred to as "law supreme" (6), "eastern prince" (9) and "god" (16). The simplicity of a nod is condescending and lowers the importance of a wife to the value of a servant or slave in 1703. Through the wife’s submissive actions a clear connection is drawn between her and a servant. In the servant/master relationship a servant’s actions toward his/her master are agreeable and passive.

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